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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Steven Zeitchik, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LONDON — The British election results Thursday night took even the seasoned by surprise. A race that was supposed to be tighter than a bearskin hatband and even potentially set off a parliamentary crisis turned out to be a romp for David Cameron’s Conservatives, who according to the tally so far defeated Ed Miliband’s Labor by 327-232 seats.

The events had implications for the United Kingdom’s two major parties as ?well as many others across the spectrum. We break down the lessons from a seismic day in British politics.

LABORING.
It’s a phenomenon that shares elements with the shattering losses of Democrats in several U.S. midterm elections: A party that once bore the working-class mantle is decimated by a conservative party,? especially in blue-collar areas. Labor’s demise in ?Scotland (to the nationalist-left Scottish National Party) and Northern England (to the Conservatives) was thorough, and will occasion hand-wringing for whoever takes over the party.? (Ed Miliband, who resigned Friday, tweeted that “the responsibility for the result is mine alone.”) Of course, politics loves a comeback. Miliband’s brother David, outmaneuvered for the head of Labor in 2010 and currently in New York as the head of a humanitarian group, could well return to the U.K. to fanfare and expectation, tasked with reversing a Democrat-esque collapse. And speaking? of blue and red state divides …

WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH (OR IN) SCOTLAND?
A burgeoning post-referendum movement for homegrown representation ?turned into full-blown political revolt Thursday as the Scottish National Party took 56 out of 59 seats it was running for. The Scots have been throatily endorsing the SNP, which also runs the country’s own (modestly mandated) Parliament and is led by Nicola Sturgeon, a straight-talking figure who is one of the fastest-rising stars in British politics (if also, for the right, one of its most polarizing). There’s a sense among many analysts that these are the first stirrings of another Scottish independence referendum and even eventual separation from the United Kingdom. The fact that the SNP will now be in the opposition instead ?of a Labor-led governing coalition should only boost those efforts _ members can snipe at and thwart Cameron’s agenda from the sidelines, delighting constituents, without being faulted for the government’s futility or ?unfavorable actions.

WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH POLLING?
This is supposed to be the era of Big Data.? So how did all the polls _ from the BBC to the Guardian/ICM _ get it wrong? The surveys all predicted neck-and-neck races; indeed, the margin between Conservative and Labor was never more than 2 percent in nearly all the major polls dating back months.
One simple answer is the sampling methods. Pre-election polls tend to look at national sentiments, discounting the local and granular forces that make up a Parliamentary election. (After all, the House of Commons is pieced together via about 645 small local elections.) Or it’s possible that many voters who planned to vote Labor got to the booth and decided to stick with the Conservative status quo. Still, it will prompt some pollster soul-searching.

THE LIB DEM-ISE. It was just five years ago when Cleggmania gripped Britain and? the centrist-minded Liberal Democrats rode a strong election to 57 seats and a spot with the Conservatives in the governing coalition. But that time may as well have been the Tudor era ?on Thursday night_the party captured just eight seats, effectively sidelining it from the political scene, at least for now, and reversing Nick Clegg’s rocket ride, at least for now. (He narrowly won his seat Thursday night and stepped down from the party leadership Friday.) There will be much ruminating about what went so wrong for a party that not so long ago had seized the British public’s imagination.? But the coalition, and the party’s rough place in it, did it no favors.? Neither did a larger polarization of British politics.

HARD RIGHTS.
On that subject of polarization, it was hardly a big parliamentary win_just one seat. Party leader Nigel Farage couldn’t even keep his own seat. But the United Kingdom Independence Party, a hard-right anti-immigration party, still notched over 10 percent of the popular vote. The result suggests that the party’s ideology is still popular with good chunks of the British population and that the country’s own version of France’s National Front is alive and well. Farage even says he hopes to come back.

CAMERON ANGLES.
David Cameron will claim a mandate after his party’s sound victory.? And given how many seats the Conservatives won over pundit predictions, he’ll have a case. But a number of close contests with Ukip candidates means he’ll continue to face pressure from his right. And he’ll encounter new challenges ?a-plenty in his second term, not least of which on European Union membership, an issue on which Cameron pledged a referendum in 2017_and which could cause a bitter Britain-wide fight that will be hard for a prime minister to stay above?.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times.Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
AFP Photo/Leon Neal

Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.